Elena Berriolo creates paper books with a sewing machine, watercolor and pen. Six of these are exhibited open-faced on music stands in a half-circle around the grand piano as part of Paper Reveries, a new exhibit in BMCC’s Shirley Fiterman Art Center.
“The beat of the sewing machine is the link between visual art and music,” says Berriolo. “When you produce a line, the beat is the pattern and the pattern is the beat.”
Louise Eastman also uses a sewing machine to create her works, which are made from toilet paper and take the form of a woven pot holder.
“I wanted to work with a very sort of fragile material that has strength,” she says, “and I like materials that you can find anywhere, to try and transform them in an unusual way.”
Paper Reveries features works by 14 contemporary artists: Bernard Aptekar, Karen Arm, L.C. Armstrong, Elena Berriolo, Nina Bovasso, Ellen Driscoll, Louise Eastman, Roland Gebhardt, Carter Hodgkin, Scott Lowenbaum, Nancy Manter, Hiromi Moneyhun, Mari Oshima, Drew Shiflett, Russell Steinert, Janis Stemmermann, Maggie Tobin, Gian Berto Vanni, Ruggero Vanni, Michael Velliquette, Sarah Walker and Jeannie Weissglass.
The impetus behind their work is as interesting as the work itself. A concept that drives Elena Berriolo’s art is time.
“I define this side of the page as my present,” she says, “and when I turn the page, I find what was my future, and now is my present, and is also the memory of my past.”
According to artist Mari Oshima, whose rows of paper works are as delicately layered as pastry, “I have 40 pieces and each one represents one month and has a 30-day Metro card inside, and the layers of paper are about 30.”
She says she works in paper because “I was interested in making three-dimensional work with two-dimensional materials. I used to do drawings and paintings, but I felt I wanted to make three-dimensional objects because that’s what we experience, as a person.”
The power of paint
Hiromi Moneyhun, who flew up from Jacksonville, Florida to be part of the exhibit, explained the process behind her intricate cutouts.
She draws a design on a large white sheet of paper and meticulously follows that design with an exacto knife, cutting through to the black sheet of paper beneath.
Her designs “are inspired by tribal woman in different countries,” including Brazil and those in Africa, she says. “I just fell in love with the images.”
She adds that she creates her intricately patterned pieces at the kitchen table and stores them under the bed. “I am an artist, housewife, mom,” she says. “I didn’t go to any college or have formal education for art.”
Wearing a white suit he painted with his own designs, Scott Lowenbaum explained how he selected his body of work, mostly portraits, for the exhibit.
He said while he’d been ill in bed for an extended time, “I was thinking about my life, about what mattered,” and realized "it’s the many individuals … that have affected me.”
Lowenbaum also makes his own paint. Pointing to his one of his paintings, he explains “all of these colors are ground mineral pigments. I’ll take lapis from some broken thing I’ve found at the flea market, or a piece of malachite stone. I’ll grind it first with an electric mill and then by hand, and mix it with linseed oil or poppy oil.”
The colors he creates are one-of-a-kind, he says, and have “a luminosity; you can paint very thinly and get a lot of power.”
An exciting new platform
Paper Reveries is the second exhibit in the series Art Ahead. Each show takes place in the Shirley Fiterman Art Center and is curated by Kathleen Kucka. The work is available for sale, and proceeds benefit the BMCC Foundation Scholarship Fund, which enables students to stay on track and earn their associate degrees at BMCC.
“The relationship between art and the work of the BMCC Scholarship Foundation is a ‘win-win’ for all,” says Kucka. “The Shirley Fiterman Art Center is spreading the word that contemporary art is Downtown!”
EDITOR’S NOTE: On Thursday, January 22 at 6:00 p.m. in the Shirley Fiterman Art Center, a performance piece, Sewing Music Into Visual Art, will feature Elena Berriolo, an artist featured in the Paper Reveries exhibition, who will create a book with a sewing machine, accompanied by pianist Edith Hirshtal and violinist Rosemarie Hertlein.